The Beijing medal haul from our track cyclists has been impressive and well deserved. Paul Manning (Team Pursuit Gold) summed it up in many ways when he commented that his/their Gold was the culmination of 10 years work. Certainly, the organisation that is run with military precision, business acumen and incredible attention to detail by Dave Brailsford has provided a near perfect platform for our cyclists to express themselves to the utmost of their ability.
Central to this has been the team approach over the years - not by chance have many of Britain's Olympians and star riders found themselves accommodated at some point in a cheap house in Manchester, required to attend sessions at the velodrome on a constant basis and supported as a unit rather than a lone athlete. Anyone with even a passing interest in cycling will have observed this over the past few years and the results that have been evident on road and track.
All the more gratifying as well as mildly amusing to hear pundits and athletes from track and field (and other sports) expressing an interest in the cycling team model and asking why track and field does not reinvent itself along these lines with a central team identity. Undoubtedly this is a good idea though given Manning's and others comments about the length of the process, it begs the question whether there is enough time before London 2012 to reap the full benefits from the Brailsford method. Time will tell.
As for cross, well it seems to have missed out a little on this phenomenon. In any case, a British centre of excellence would need to be Belgian based to reap full benefit from the Euro scene! English speaking riders like Helen Wyman and Jonathan Page have made great strides in breaking into a Euro dominated cyclocross scene but it requires strength in depth and staff over in the cross heartlands to really make a difference. Nice thought though - Team GB cleaning up in the 2015 Cyclocross World Championships leaving a crestfallen Belgian and Dutch public to rue the days when they dominated the sport.............
It's true that you need to be racing where the racing is, and right now, that's in the low countries. But there's still an important scene here and that has been instrumental in pulling in many riders to the British Cycling fold. I'm thinking of Nicole Cooke and Johnny McEvoy (I've suffered at the hands of both of them at different stages of my 'cross career!) but there will be more. The magical thing about our cyclocross is that it's a safe sport for the younger people to start off racing, and with the performance plan's need for early talent-spotting, grass roots cyclocross has a big role to play in the future, albeit that riders are then nicked by other bits of the sport!
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